This was no trip to the bowling alley.
Going a little outside the norm for a team-building event in lieu of minicamp practice on Wednesday, the Packers went clay shooting at Little Creek Lodge in Little Suamico, Wis., about 20 minutes outside of Green Bay.
“It’s definitely an event that generates a lot of testosterone,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “We just wanted to change it up. We have a number of guys who are avid hunters, and we have guys who have never shot a gun.
“We just wanted to do something different to get them away from Lambeau.”
Players and coaches were divided up into groups of six and rotated through the venue’s different shooting stations, which featured clay targets fired in various directions and from different distances. Some stations included an elevated shooting platform.
Doug Collins, the Packers’ director of security, arranged for local law enforcement officers to monitor each of the stations and handle all the loading of shotgun shells for safety.
Some players were definitely more in their element than others.
“You can tell the guys who grab the guns like they’ve done it before,” said cornerback Jarrett Bush, who was not one of those guys. “I’ve gone 0-fer a couple of times now, but I’ll get it. You have to lead it like a football pass.”
Offensive lineman T.J. Lang was keeping it even simpler.
“Put the white dot on it and just pull the trigger,” he said. “It’s tough, but it’s fun. I’m still trying to figure out the secret.”
Outside linebacker Frank Zombo, one of the avid hunters, said he can usually hit about 85 percent but was a tad off that pace through his first two stations, going six-for-eight.
“I hunt quite a bit so I’d say I’m a pretty good shot,” said Zombo, whose Pro Bowl position-mate, Clay Matthews, wasn’t finding quite as much success. “Clay is a good shot with a rifle, but I’ve never seen him shoot shotguns.”
Others had before, but admitted to being a bit rusty.
“Before college, I’d go hunting and shoot clay pigeons once in a while, but I haven’t shot a shotgun in maybe eight years,” said receiver Jordy Nelson, who nonetheless went three-for-four on one of his early turns.
In addition to doing some shooting of his own, McCarthy was making the rounds and said he hadn’t seen safety Charlie Peprah miss yet. Receiver Donald Driver also impressed the coach, and outside linebacker Vic So’oto went four-for-four one round with McCarthy looking on.
While other coaches around the league have voiced concerns about the limited number of practices allowed under the new collective bargaining agreement, McCarthy felt giving up a day on the field was well worth it for the off-the-field benefits.
“Team-building and team dynamics is definitely one of the priorities of the offseason,” he said. “You don’t have an opportunity to take a step back and enjoy time away from the field, because everybody is so focused on the job. This is an excellent time for guys to interact, have some fun, have some laughs, also compete, and this is the perfect place to do it.”
Avid gunmen or not, the players were getting a kick out of it. It sure beat bowling.
“I like the change-up,” Bush said. “It clears the mind a little bit.”
To see a photo gallery of Wednesday's team-building event, click here.